A charity that could help the estimated ten per cent of people in Southampton who suffer from phobias and the two to three per cent who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is looking to re-start its self-help group in the city.

The charity, Triumph Over Phobia (TOP), already runs successful groups in London, Bristol, Bath, Torbay, Plymouth, Cardiff, Jersey and Ireland.

TOP's national director, Trilby Breckman, said: “We did have a successful group in Southampton but it closed a few years ago when the volunteers running it left the area. We are very excited to have found some new volunteers who want to give up their time to help people in the city.

"Southampton has an adult population of more than 200,000 which means there’s likely to be some 20,000 residents suffering from phobias and 6,000 from OCD – all of whom could benefit from our support.

“We have found that many people's lives are severely affected by having irrational fears or obsessive behaviours, but they are reluctant to seek help because they are afraid of not being taken seriously.

“Our self-help groups, which are recommended by the NHS, can provide immediate help. They are open to anyone aged 18 or above. You do not need to have seen a doctor or have a formal diagnosis to attend.

"They meet once a week and are run by trained volunteers, many of whom have overcome a phobia or OCD themselves.”

One of the voluntary facilitators is Natasha Browning, who suffers from anxiety and who has experience of living with a family member with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Natasha, who is a psychology student at the University of Southampton, says that she began suffering with anxiety when she started at university.

"I thought that I felt OK about moving away from home and coming to university, but I think that subconsciously it kicked in as anxiety," says the 19 year old.

"I started suffering from panic attacks. I got really worked up about things that I couldn't change. So with exams, I wouldn't get stressed beforehand, but I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about a question that I could have answered differently for days and days afterwards."

Natasha has recently completed a course of group therapy, which has contributed to her wanting to help others suffering similarly.

"Group therapy has really helped me to change the focus of my attention. I've learnt to ground myself in my senses and get a sense of perspective."

She adds that she is determined not to let her anxiety hold her back.

"It hasn't affected my social life because being around people makes me happier. It does affect my studies, because I find it hard to concentrate for long periods, but I always take on challenges. I don't want it to stop me from doing anything."

She adds that she is looking forward to helping to run the group and pass on some of the benefits she has experienced to others.

"I want to help other people in similar situations," she says.

Chris Chrzanowski, who lives in the New Forest, will also be running the group.

He explained that the group will be tailored to the needs of service users.

"The group will be somewhere where people who suffer can talk about the issues they have," he said.

"It's about giving them the power to change."

* To express an interest in joining the Southampton group, call Trilby on 01225 571740 (office) or 07763 826618 (mobile) or visit the TOP website at www.topuk.org.